Director, mentor and teacher are fluid roles within my work as a choreographic artist, in relation to my students, my dancers as well as my audiences. I approach dance and the movement of the body by working in the company of these others to pull ideas, emotions, and experiences out of our bodies, where they already exist. Together we approach the body as housing a knowledge otherwise unreachable but for the unbuilding of its architecture through dance. House as body. Body as world.
It is here, inside this metaphor of the house, that I find myself inside very literal spaces and behaviors. I find myself making company and making dances there, in homes and gestures so ready and willing, ripe with unspoken text to direct the body. What do the rooms of a house say? What movements do they inscribe on our bodies? What interactions with time and space and others do they allow? What are the specific stories of a particular household of people, read through the treasures and stains they have left in their wake? This line of inquiry is only beginning to shape itself into the broad investigation that involves an ethnography of domestic behavior and shared company by way of “the dance.” I have currently been developing two large-scale projects, amongst other sketches and research, that aim directly at unbuilding the house as body or the house as world.
“DINNER DANCE, the choreographed meal” began as a series of intimate dinner parties meant to bring colleagues together to explore the possibilities of A House Unbuilt’s new studio in Chicago. By virtue of it’s own generative nature, DINNER DANCE has become a well-honed method for collaborative interdisciplinary performance, a workshop structure with invited guests, a multi-course meal, and domestic spaces reimagined as stages.
DINNER DANCE uses the structure of the multi-course meal to both disorient us from our daily routines as well as give reverence and respect to the creative process. Between the courses of the meal, the DINNER DANCE company rotate through roles such as “choreographer,” “documentarian,” “deviant,” and “designer,” and each guest scores or choreographs a dance. Having danced through the dinner, at the meal’s end the company performs these productions for and with each other.
In addition to the dance that is DINNER, the project offers a platform for other auxiliary performances—revisionings, remixes, and additional as-yet unformed models of choreographed exchanges built out of the actions, labors, and engagements originally produced. I am looking to expand the project to consider new environments—others’ homes, studios, and spaces beyond the domestic to house this gathering ritual—as well as the different social contracts housed within those spaces.
“Blackbird / I would rather dance with you than talk with you” is a site/situation-adaptive performance engaging the small gestures and quiet movements of our bodies. The dance is taken up in the field of the audience, and the audience is immersed in the creation of the stage. As the performers work through five cycles of structured improvisations, they pluck minute gestures from these passive dance partners, idly watching, and transform what they would be if we turned up their volume. “Blackbird” was commissioned by Design Cloud Gallery and was first shown as a work-in-progress at HUB Studio as a evening length performance. It will be shown on February 22 at a four-story historic church building as a 3 hour progressive performance.
Working with movers—trained and untrained who are interested in participatory dance theatre—I could bring this performance-cum-ethnography to a variety of venues in order to develop a vocabulary of movement. The dance and its structure would enable us to interrogate how people house their bodies differently in different spaces, beyond the “home” but still nesting—where they house themselves within themselves through certain prescribed and situational behaviors.
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